Already acknowledged as one of the most distinctive of the ʻNewspeak' painters, British artist Ryan Mosley's first major solo exhibition opened at Alison Jacques Gallery
. Admired for what Art Review has described as 'hyperfigurative psychocubism', and an approach to painting which is at once both historical and fantastical, Mosley's work simultaneously acknowledges a profound debt to the received genres and traditions of art history and an exuberant willingness to subordinate such categories to a uniquely personal painterly vision.
This exhibition develops Mosley's ongoing fascination with the aesthetics and motifs of various chapters in the canon of art history, whilst being faithful to a visual vocabulary entirely of his own making. The Renaissance collages of Arcimboldo and Hogarth's morality tales, Degas's dancers and Gauguin's exotic landscapes, Ensor's carnivalesque and the coarse ebullience of Guston are among the differing images and cultural episodes from which Mosley draws inspiration and to which he pays homage. Yet these subversive stylistic echoes of past masters, which are very often blended on the same canvas into dynamic art historical conversations, are not deployed simply to offer an idiosyncratic gloss on eras and artists which intrigue Mosley. Rather, they provide tools and contexts in which he can dramatise ad absurdum his interests in form and the fluid diffusion of narrative, and construct otherworldly scenarios and characters which are every bit as amusing, menacing, likeable and bewildering as the world we inhabit.
The singular images crafted by Mosley, works that range from the wondrous to the monstrous, often rest on the artistʼs transgressive attitude to the classical genres of painting. Still life, landscape, and portraiture collapse in on each other, as studies of shoes morph into human likenesses, and botanical renderings become strangely animated and threatening scenes. Mosleyʼs interest in the anthropomorphic potential in various forms and characters, from top hats to cacti, means that in spite of his often grotesque hybridities (which include limbs with afros and snakes in drag), a sincerely human presence is never far from the canvas. The paintings do not depict human experiences and histories, but suggest them through both the artistʼs own weird formal imaginings, and the carefully built up layers and softly defined fields of colour which contribute towards the viewerʼs hazy recognitions. The anatomical incongruities, material impossibilities and circumstantial unlikelihoods portrayed mean that often Mosleyʼs paintings cannot be said to be ʻofʼ anything specifically; instead they are paintings about the artistʼs concerns, as they irreverently probe the history and practice of painting, and playfully evoke the humour, terror and bafflement attendant on human existence.
Ryan Mosley (b. 1980) trained at the University of Huddersfield and the Royal College of Art. Solo exhibitions include presentations at Regina Gallery, Moscow (2009) and Census, Engholm Engelhorn, Vienna (2008). Group shows include Newspeak: British Art Now, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2009) and The Saatchi Gallery, London (2010); Jerwood Contemporary Painters, Jerwood Space, London (2009); and Make Believe, Concrete and Glass, London (2008). Mosley lives and works in London.